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Kenyan Artists Make Art Out of Recycled Products


In Kenya, artists are improving their communities through art. From old, dirty, plastic flip-flops collected from Kenya's beaches come rainbow-colored animals, bottle-stoppers, necklaces, baskets, and even a car.

From old, dirty, plastic flip-flops collected from Kenya's beaches come rainbow-colored animals, bottle-stoppers, necklaces, baskets, and even a car.

These are some of the products being sold at Marula Studios, our first stop on the tour. Here, preserving the environment is foremost on the artists' minds.

"It was very disconcerting to see these floating in the ocean - these do not sink - and waste on the beach," said Lisa Barratt, director of Marula Studios. "Of major concern is the turtle. That [flip-flop sandal] is shaped like a fish. If you are a little turtle swimming in the sea, if there were smaller bits, it would try and eat it. So there is a whole conservation ethos of cleaning up the oceans and saving the sea life."

Artists create a wide array of products out of recycled plastics, rubber, glass and cloth, as well as leather and beads.

John Kinywa glues several flip-flops together and carves a door-stopper out of the material.

The work is employment for local communities.

Beadwork taps into the skills of women from a nearby Maasai community.

Salome Sianto is one such bead worker.

"We have cut a pattern, we use it to put on top of the belt, we draw it, then we make beads around that pattern," she said.

Our tour stops at the workshop of Kazuri Beads, a company known internationally for its necklaces, bracelets and pottery.

Supervisor and tour guide Philip Mukeku explains that the clay that the beads are made out of comes from Mount Kenya. The clay is processed, molded by the artisans, left in the sun to dry, baked, and then painted.

"These ones we are painting," he said. "We are going to make sure we load them in the kilns overnight. Then after we burn it for eight hours at 1,000 degrees [celcius] the paint will melt, they will come out shiny like those ones. Then we make the necklaces just following the same list. We take the number of the beads, and the colors [and] we join them together."

Supervisor Mukeku explains that Kazuri Beads was founded primarily to create employment opportunities for single mothers.

The final stop on the tour is to visit Mwitiki Kioko, a pioneer of junk metal art in Kenya.

He says he takes recycling very seriously.

"People used to recycle and reuse what they use and just take as much as they need. But now we have got a whole way of taking more than we need and so we end up with these huge masses of waste, which we need to find ways of dumping now," he explained.

Kioko creates works of art from old bolts, spark plugs, oil drums and other junk metals. He says he draws upon nature and his community for his inspiration.

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